Skip Navigation

War Club

Arts of the Americas

The articles in this case and the adjacent clothing case [see 50.67.6] are some of the earliest and finest Eastern Plains pieces in existence. They were collected by Dr. Nathan Sturges Jarvis, a military surgeon stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, between 1833 and 1836. Most items were made by the Eastern and Middle Dakota (Sioux) or by the peoples of the Red River region, including the Red River Métis, Anishinabe, Plains Cree, and Salteaux. Some of the objects were purchased by Jarvis, and others may have been given to him in exchange for his medical services.

By the early nineteenth century, the growing numbers of white settlers and military personnel—following decades of fur trading—had depleted much of the game on which the Dakota and Red River peoples depended. Indigenous ingenuity in combining trade materials such as cloth, metal, and glass beads with traditional hides, pipestone, and porcupine and bird quills is evident in these objects.
MEDIUM Wood, metal, cotton cord
DATES early 19th century
DIMENSIONS 29 1/4 x 14 1/4 x 5/8 in. (74.3 x 36.2 x 1.6 cm)  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Arts of the Americas
CREDIT LINE Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund
PROVENANCE Prior to 1848, provenance not yet documented; by 1848, acquired by Nathan Sturges Jarvis; 1848, gift of Nathan Sturges Jarvis to the New-York Historical Society, New York, NY; 1937, loaned by the New-York Historical Society to the Brooklyn Museum; 1950, purchased from the New-York Historical Society by the Brooklyn Museum.
Provenance FAQ
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Carved wood war club with an attached metal blade. A twisted cotton cord is attached to the handle. The object's decoration is done by chip carving and incising. Fourteen headless figures are shown on one side of the club and an Indian head is etched onto the metal blade. Possible explanation: The designs cut into the end of the club in rows of triangular shapes represent tipis. Probably, the scene depicted is a recounting of the exploits of the owner of the club. The figure on the end holds a feathered lance or staff, possibly a medicine man. The others, all male that are facing another single male, are men that he touched (coup counting) or killed.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Sioux. War Club, early 19th century. Wood, metal, cotton cord, 29 1/4 x 14 1/4 x 5/8 in. (74.3 x 36.2 x 1.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund, 50.67.67. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 50.67.67_50.67.71_PS1.jpg)
IMAGE group, 50.67.67_50.67.71_PS1.jpg.
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this three-dimensional work in accordance with a Creative Commons license. Fair use, as understood under the United States Copyright Act, may also apply. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form (charges apply). For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress, Cornell University, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, and Copyright Watch. For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright. If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome any additional information you might have.